For months, supporters of the Dream Act have been hoping that their bill would be sent to the State Senate floor where it could be voted on – rather than see it get bottled up or killed through legislative inertia.
On Monday, the bill's backers saw their dream realized – but then it turned into a nightmare as the legislation fell two votes short of passage.
The legislation, which would provide college financial aid to illegal immigrants, has been supported by a wide array of groups who argue that children should not be punished by the decisions of their parents and that the New York economy will be better served by a college-educated workforce. Opponents say that as the state's budget pie is shrinking, those who play by the rules should be rewarded first.
But arguments on both sides of the bill were in short supply on Monday because the bill was suddenly placed on the Senate floor for a vote, even surprising many lawmakers.
The Dream Act was defeated largely along party lines – with every Republican voting no along with two Democrats. (Two GOPers also missed the vote.) But because the State Senate's leadership coalition resembles the Italian parliament, even the fingerpointing got a little confusing.
Jeff Klein, who heads a group of five renegade Democrats that runs the Senate with the Republicans, told our Zack Fink: "I think the question that the advocates really have to ask is why two duly elected Democratic state senators voted no."
More likely, the advocates are probably asking why a single Republican didn't vote for the bill. And, of course, these are the same Republicans who are Klein's partners in running the State Senate.
Meanwhile, it's unclear what Gov. Cuomo did – or didn't do – to push the Dream Act with the Senate. But it does seem unlikely that if Cuomo called a few of those GOP lawmakers – or those two Democrats – that they all still would have opposed the bill. Cuomo could explain things to a group of Latino lawmakers who are meeting in Albany this weekend -- but he's not scheduled to be there.
At least one major political powerbroker is speaking out forcefully for the bill. Cardinal Timothy Dolan – who was in Albany yesterday – told reporters: "You bet we see it as a moral issue. We see it as a patriotic issue. We see it as an American issue. We see it as a civil rights issue."
Sometimes it's easier tackling issues when you answer to a power that's higher than focus groups.